Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Cnty 5 Tonight: On the Docket an Effective 16 yr $465,000 Tax Abatement for HAECO

The Columbia County 5 from left to right: Commissioners Ronald Williams; Rusty DePratter; Bucky Nash; Everett Phillips; Tim Murphy

COLUMBIA COUNTY – On the County 5 docket tonight Lake City has its hand out for a County taxpayer bailout for what amounts to a new airport hangar, they are calling it a renovation, and a new HACO employee parking lot, and drainage improvements between two of HAECO's hangars. The cost to Columbia County taxpayers will be $465,359.

Lake City has applied for a Rural Infrastructure Grant (RIF) from the state of Florida. A source has told the Observer that Jeff Hendry of North Florida Broadband Authority (NFBA) fame has been the arranging force behind the grant.

RIF grants are funded at 30%, making Lake City's required contribution to the grant $1,913,450. This is clearly stated in the grant application, where it pins the total project cost at $2,733,500 with a note which states: 

Note: The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) will participate with funding up to 30% for each of the above items up to the authorized DEO grand amount.

At about 2 pm this afternoon, the City forwarded to the Observer the lease documents between TIMCO and the City for the hangars and grounds they occupy at the airport. It is about 500 pages of information.

The lease reveals that TIMCO was responsible for the hangar maintenance.

By 3 pm this afternoon, the County 5 has not received the DEO grant application or a copy of the lease(s) between the City and TIMCO.

TIMCO was acquired by the Hong Kong based multinational, HAECO.

It is not clear if anyone from the City, DEO, or HAECO will be presenting reasons why the County should partner with the City on this project.

The Economic Development Advisory Board was not asked to weigh in on this project.

Cnty Attny Foreman weighed in: "... not enough information..."

Before this article was posted, your reporter spoke with County Attorney Joel Foreman about this evening's special meeting. "Do you think the County has enough information to make an informed decision regarding this partnership?"

Mr. Foreman responded, "This was the problem I had last week when we received the request to add this to the agenda at the last minute. Up to this point, I have not received any information from the City on which the Board can base a decision."

This evening, the County 5 will vote on whether to give the City $465,359, in part to rebuild the hangars and build a new parking lot for HAECO employees.

HAECO's current County tax is $28,655 a year. The $465,359 represents the value of 16 year County tax abatement.

It is not clear, what if anything, HAECO is contributing.

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